In the four games Fresno State had played before heading off to Wyoming, two wins and two losses, the Bulldogs had hit only 36.9 percent of their shots – including just 39.6 percent inside the three-point line – missing far more than they made at the rim, in the paint, on out to 20 feet and 9 inches and, yes, past that, too.
But the Bulldogs knocked down just about everything Wednesday with the three-ball playing huge in a 79-75 victory at Wyoming, which moved them into a third-place tie with Nevada in the Mountain West men’s basketball standings, one game behind New Mexico.
Fresno State (17-9, 8-5) hit a season-high 15 threes in 22 attempts (68.2 percent) and was at 55.3 percent overall, matching a season-high set in a win at Rice in November when also 26 of 47.
Marvelle Harris, who scored 25 points and had seven assists, hit 7 of 8 shots from the three-point line. Jahmel Taylor was 4 of 4 on threes off the bench in scoring 14 points. Cezar Guerrero had two makes from the three-point line. Cullen Russo hit one, part of a badly needed double-double with center Terrell Carter II back but forwards Torren Jones, Karachi Edo and Paul Watson still out with injuries or illness. Russo scored 17 points and had 10 rebounds. Julien Lewis also knocked down one three-pointer.
Those shots gave the Bulldogs a cushion that helped absorb a stretch of almost four minutes in the second half where they went scoreless and the last one, by Taylor, gave them a 71-67 lead with 1:38 to go after the Cowboys had cut an 18-point Fresno State lead at the 12:39 mark down to just one point.
Marvelle Harris is No. 2 on Fresno State’s all-time scoring list (1,823 career points) – 128 points away from tying Melvin Ely at 1,951.
“JT came in and made some big shots,” coach Rodney Terry said. “Marvelle got us going. Cezar made some shots. Julien Lewis made a three. Cullen Russo played really well in the second half. It was a great team win. Terrell came in and gave us a really good 13 minutes – we really missed him on Saturday (at Nevada) having some physicality to come in and give us those minutes inside.”
But those threes ...
The Bulldogs came in scoring only 22.5 percent of their points against Division I opponents from the three-point line, ranking in a tie for 324th of 351 in the nation. Against the Cowboys, three-point shots accounted for 56.9 percent of their points.
Fresno State had hit 10 in a loss at Nevada and 11 in a double-overtime victory over UNLV, but those were volume shoots requiring 29 shots against the Wolf Pack and 30 against the Rebels, 34.5 and 36.7 percent.
It also took the Bulldogs’ four conference games before they had 15 three-pointers, going 2 of 10 in a victory at UNLV, 1 of 18 in a loss to New Mexico, 6 of 10 in a win over Nevada and 6 of 17 in a loss at Boise State.
The school record for three-pointers in a game is 18 set in an 88-78 loss at Georgia on March 14, 2007 in a NIT game. And the school record for best three-point percentage in a single game is 71.4 (10 of 14), a number hit twice, most recently in an 82-50 victory over Air Force on Feb. 17, 1996.
Fresno State returns home to host Utah State at 3 p.m. Saturday for Alumni Night, which will feature a post-game scrimmage of former Bulldogs players.
The Bulldogs – who in an overtime loss at Nevada before playing Wyoming opened 1 of 7 and had stretches where they made only 1 of 8, 1 of 9 and 1 of 12 shots – did not miss more than four shots in a row against the Cowboys. They started 1 of 5 and missed as many as three in a row just once the rest of the game.
“I don’t think we’re not a good shooting team,” Terry said. “I think any given night we can shoot the basketball.”
Wednesday was one of those nights.
The flip side – While the Bulldogs were knocking down shots, Josh Adams was not.
The Wyoming guard, who went into the game leading the conference in scoring at 24.3 points per game and put up 32 when these teams squared off in January at Save Mart Center, had only two points at halftime and finished with 16.
None of those points came from the foul line, which was significant as well. Adams is leading the Mountain West in free throw attempts, but he got to the line only once. The Bulldogs. playing more man and less zone than they did the past two games, were able to guard without fouling, which was crucial playing down Jones, Edo and Watson.
Wyoming was 5 of 11 at the line, its second-fewest free throws in a game this season.
Road wins in conference are really difficult to get. I thought our bench was really positive with our guys on the floor. We had key guys come in and make big plays for us. It’s a huge win for us on the road.
Fresno State coach Rodney Terry
And, while it doesn’t make up for games past, it’s worth at least noting (and a chuckle) that the Arena-Auditorium has been a house of horrors for the Bulldogs.
In the first trip there under Terry, the Cowboys made twice as many free throws as the Bulldogs attempted (17 of 33 to 5 of 8) in a 55-50 overtime win.
The following season, they were 33 of 44 at the line including 28 of 37 in the second half alone when beating Fresno State 72-66. The 37 free throws in the second half were more than the Cowboys attempted in any of their conference games and more than they attempted in all but three of their games that season.
Et cetera – The Bulldogs play their next two and three of their final games at Save Mart Center, where they are 13-2 including 5-1 in Mountain West games. Utah State comes in Saturday, followed by Air Force, both with losing records in conference play.
Fresno State has the best home winning percentage in the Mountain West (13-2, 86.7 percent) and most home wins (13) of any MW team.
The Aggies are 5-8 after beating Colorado State on Wednesday. Air Force is 4-10.
New Mexico, which is in second place, plays its next two at Air Force and at Colorado State. Nevada, which is tied with the Bulldogs, plays at UNLV and against Utah State. Boise State, which is at 8-6 and in fifth place, plays UNLV and at San Diego State.
▪ The seven three-pointers by Harris is a career high – the senior guard had made five threes four times in his career, most recently the double-overtime victory over UNLV at Save Mart Center on Feb. 6.
▪ Fresno State, which went in leading the Mountain West in offensive rebounds at 12.8 per game, had only three against the Cowboys including one team rebound. That is a good thing – the Bulldogs missed only 21 shots, the fewest in conference play and in some cases by a large margin. The Bulldogs in the past four games were 21 of 61 in losing at San Jose State, 40 of 89 when beating UNLV in double-overtime, 19 of 54 in beating San Diego State and 20 of 67 losing at Nevada in overtime.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
MEN’S BASKETBALL: FRESNO STATE VS. UTAH STATE
- Saturday: 3 p.m. at Save Mart Center
- Records: Bulldogs 17-9, 8-5 MW; Aggies 13-11, 5-8
- Radio: KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Series history: Utah State leads 32-21; Fresno State leads 15-8 (games played in Fresno)
- Last meeting: Utah State 85, Fresno State 79 in Logan on Feb. 21, 2015